PAW PAW — A Van Buren County commissioner who had originally favored closing the South Haven courthouse said he now agrees with a commissioner who wants to keep it open.
“I just want you to know I’m taking what you said to heart,” Commissioner Randall Peat told Commissioner Gail Patterson-Gladney, who represents the South Haven area.
Last month Peat came out in favor of a tentative plan to close that office, plus sell the Paw Paw Administration and Land Management Building across from the historic courthouse and construct a new office building in the parking lot east of the courthouse. Peat said at the time: “I just want to do it once, do it right, spend what we need to spend, and move on.”
However, Commissioner Gail Patterson-Gladney is firmly opposed to closing the South Haven courthouse. Peat said this week he had considered her arguments.
“Gail has provided some additional input on that and she has talked to some of the leaders over that and, as you might expect, they are not in favor of closing the South Haven facility,” Peat said.
Peat said he has no problem leaving such a decision up to a future board, but still favors a Paw Paw building that can accommodate South Haven staff if such a decision is made.
“As long as the design incorporates those capabilities then I’m cool with not making a decision on South Haven,” Peat said.
Patterson-Gladney responded with, “I always think it’s good to have possibilities for future development.”
The discussion’s purpose at the last meeting was to generate a direction for a long-range facilities plan to expand office space and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The plan’s goals include enhancing citizen access to services, improving safety and security, and moving employees out of basements. Basement offices now include the Friend of the Court, specialty courts and the State Probation/Parole office.
Closing the two buildings and constructing another next to the historic courthouse is just one of four options being examined. The other options are: keeping both those buildings but still constructing a new building, keep the South Haven courthouse but sell the administration building, plus construct a building next to the Paw Paw courthouse and incorporate the offices in the Administration building. The final option is to do none of these.
Cost estimates topped out at $35 million. No decisions have been made and the subject will be on future agendas.
In other matters, Court Administrator Frank Hardester told commissioners the county has been awarded a three-year, $750,000 grant for the Mental Health Court Program.
“This will dramatically expand the services,” Hardester told commissioners.
The money is coming from the U.S. Department of Justice under the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program.